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Tips For Saving Money on Textbooks

Updated on May 25, 2011

College can be a very expensive proposition. When you finally pay the high cost of tuition you have to turn around and buy textbooks. Unfortunately textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars - every single semester. Fortunately for you there are plenty of ways to save on textbooks.

  1. Wait to buy. Unless you have a solid list of what you need for each class before class starts, you should wait. You do not want to buy any more than you have to or the wrong thing.
  2. Don't buy it on campus if you can avoid it. Every school I have ever been to has an on-campus book store and an off-campus book store. Guess which one is almost always cheaper? The farther away from the college you get the less money it will cost you.
  3. Purchase used books whenever possible. This can save you 50% or more on the cost of textbooks each semester.
  4. Take very good care of your books. Don't write in them, don't turn down pages, don't bend the spine back, and certainly don't spill anything on it. If you can take care of your books, chances are good you can turn around and resell them for the price you paid at the beginning of the semester. This will keep your out of pocket costs to a minimum over the course of four years of college.
  5. Order books online. If you know what you need ahead of time you can shop around for the best price. Check Amazon, EBay,, etc. for a large savings. I know someone that did this recently and saved 50% off what those books would have cost at the book store. If you are following tip #1 though, you might not be able to wait for shipping if you don't purchase your books in advance. Keep this in mind when shopping.
  6. Swap with a friend. Thinking back to my freshman year of college pretty much everyone in my dorm took calculus, geography and biology. We could have easily swapped books between semesters and split the cost in half. You could also try sharing with a friend during the same semester.
  7. Borrow from the library if you don't need the book for very long. This is especially good for literature classes that read many novels. All of those books can add up to a lot of money. Put your library to use and you won't have to spend a dime.
  8. See if you can get the book you need through an E-reader. Typically an e-book is significantly cheaper than a textbook and it is much easier to carry around too.
  9. Use a cash back site to shop, such as Ebates. This way you can get some of your money back in the end.
  10. The flip side of tip #1 is to buy early. I am hesitant to recommend this, but if you know for absolute certainly exactly what you need, then buying early, or during the "off-season" will help you save money.


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    • profile image

      Saver 7 years ago

      Waiting to buy is a great idea. Many of the listed textbooks are never used so you can usually avoid buying a couple books every semester.

    • tmbridgeland profile image

      tmbridgeland 7 years ago from Small Town, Illinois

      Great advice I wish I had known when I was a student. One more idea, you can call on the professors of the classes you want to take, and ask them if the books you need are going to change from the books used the previous semester. Buy the book at the end of the semester rather than waiting until the new semester starts. Big difference in price! Plus, the professors like to see students with initiative. Visit the prof in person if possible, be polite. He/she will remember you and that can really help if you need advice later during the class.

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 7 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      All great tips, many of which I have used myself, Jennifer. I use # 3, 6, 7 most. TONS of money savings. Thanks for sharing.

    • fundamentallife profile image

      fundamentallife 7 years ago

      These are great tips on saving money Jennifer. I wonder how many people look back today and wonder how much they could have saved by swapping with other students!

      I hope future students read your article. It will save them money and in the long run, help the environment with less books being used.

      Voted up and useful.


    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for your helpful advice.

    • David 470 profile image

      David 470 7 years ago from Pennsylvania, United States

      Very good suggestions. I find it funny how text books are so much new, but then once there used are not nearly as much. Very informative hub..

    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      Great suggestions for the college student. The books are extraordinarily priced! They were expensive when I went to school back in the olden times, but the costs have kept up with the times. I am especially skeptical with a text that is required, that has been written by the professor and is priced in the astronomical category. Another possibility with books is to "share." A class that has a long reading list can be split into half or thirds by sharing with other students in the class. I was able to do this several times in college and it worked fine. Also, form study groups that meet regularly and split the costs of reference type books.

    • Specialk3749 profile image

      Karen Metz 7 years ago from Michigan

      I am amazed at how expensive these books really are. I have been buying textbooks for our homeschool, and I thought those were expensive until my daughter started college! Thanks for the tips!

    • jollytan profile image

      jollytan 7 years ago from Singapore

      Jennifer, these are wonderful ideas. I wish more college students will read and put these ideas about saving money on textbooks to work.